"The night was sweet with the dust of autumn leaves that smelled as if the fine sands of ancient Egypt were drifting to dunes beyond the town."
As I write this, I am looking out the window at the grey October sky and watching the burnt orange leaves of a massive oak dance in the breeze. It has been a beautiful autumn in the Tuscarawas Valley but until today it really hasn't felt like Halloween season. Last evening I read late into the night a book that I've always wanted to devour during this spooky season: Ray Bradbury's macabre classic, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Written in 1962 and taking its name from Shakespeare's Macbeth (By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes), Bradbury's tale is a magical concoction of the surreal and supernatural with the nostalgic sameness of small-town American life.
Set in the fictional town of Green Town, Illinois, Bradbury's tale tells the story of two 13 year-old best friends, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, who get sucked into a battle between good and evil, light and dark, when one October night right before Halloween a traveling carnival show steams in by rail and sets up shop in a clearing on the edge of town. "In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes. . .and the stuff of nightmare,"(William Morrow Publishers).
Ray Bradbury is famous for his rich word choice and Something Wicked is no exception. As a librarian, I was captivated by how the public library played such a central role to the story. As library regulars, both Jim and Will use the library to feed their endless curiosity and their penchant for mischief. "Jim and Will grinned at each other. It was all so good, these blowing quiet October nights and the library waiting inside now with its green-shaded lamps and papyrus dust." Will's father Charles, the custodian at the town library, regularly wanders the darkened stacks of the library long after closing time, reading and dreaming from the ancient books on the shelves.
Although Disney made a film version of Bradbury's book in 1983 starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce, the librarian in me must say that Bradbury's tale is captured much more powerfully in print than on film. It all begins with these words...."The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm. He came along the street of Green Town, Illinois, in the late cloudy October day..." To find out what happens to Will and Jim and the denizens of Green Town (or Bolivar or Dover or Port Washington or Beach City or anywhere) then stop by your local library. After all, what better day to read Something Wicked This Way Comes than on Halloween!